Sunday, September 30, 2012

Getting the Cows

     This week I listened to a very humorous motivational speaker who was brought  to Red Deer by the Red Deer River Naturalists. Al Batt comes from rural Heartland Minnesota and I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation.

    Al's theme was mentor ship. He used his father as an example. Al was the youngest in a farm family that was very busy. One day seven year old Al asked his father if he could have a job. Al's Dad said, "Well what do you have in mind?" Al said, "I'd like to drive the combine. " The "no" answer came pretty quickly. However, Al's Dad gave him the job of getting the cows from the pasture twice a day. Al was very happy and set about to do his job as best he could.

     One morning when Al was looking for the cows he saw something white on a fence post. Little Al thought it was a ghost. Al took the cows home and told his Dad. Al's Dad immediately took him by the hand and went back to see the ghost. Al's Dad explained that it wasn't a ghost on the fence post but a snowy owl. His Dad told him all about snowy owls and that is what got Al interested in birds so that today he is a highly respected ornithologist. 

    This story reminded me of my own farm experience. I had to get the cows morning and night starting when I was about five years old which was about 1944. The cow pasture was always close to the farmers's yard and was usually submarginal land if possible. Sometimes it took a very long time for me to find the cows as I had so many interesting things to look at . The area was only about half developed so there was still some excellent native habitat. So I knew where Saskatoons, chokecherries, Pincherries, raspberries, strawberries and a whole lot of other good things were.  There were sloughs, willows brush and grassland. It was super habitat for birds. 
I don't have a picture of my brother when we wee little so here he is long after the days of getting cows.

    I always had to take my little brother along. He was less than a year younger than I was. He was a pain. I liked to talk to myself but I didn't like anybody to listen. I would make him walk behind me but he would sneak up behind me and listen. I would make him walk ahead but he would go so slow I would catch up to him. He didn't know how to chase cows, according to me, so I blamed him if the cows went the wrong way. So we got a lot of free fighting time in when we got the cows from the pasture. This job had to be done in all weather. To this day I still like walking in the rain.

    Before I was given the job of getting the cows it was my Mom's job. Mom would have to take a three year old (me) a two year old ( my brother) and a one year old (my sister) in a carriage. I often think of poor Mom and how difficult her life must have been. One day my Mom asked me if I wanted to see a very pretty bird. She told me I had to be very, very quiet. We crept through a ditch and willows. We were crouched down low and there I saw it. Right at eye level I saw a mallard drake swimming on a small pond. It was very near to us and I stopped breathing as it was such a beautiful thing. 

    So Mom was my mentor. She took time from a hectic , chaotic schedule and showed me a very beautiful bird. I've been a birder ever since. Nice mentor Mom! Thanks for setting me on a most enjoyable life time activity.

    So Al Batt reminded me of when and where I got my interest in birds and so the mentor ship theme was reinforced for me. From about 1955 on this type of farming was discontinued. I often think about what farm children miss by not having to "go for the cows."

    Now I realize that for many readers this post will have very little meaning because they never had the experience " of getting the cows."  I hope that you will be mentors to others in other areas.